The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative
Our story begins in 1991 when the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), a global program to encourage the broad-scale implementation of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. The BFHI assists hospitals in giving mothers the information, confidence, and skills necessary to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies or safely feed with formula, and gives special recognition to hospitals that have done so.
The WHO and UNICEF administer the BFHI program internationally and work with the national authority in each country which confers the Baby-Friendly designation in their nation. More than 20,000 maternity facilities in 150 countries around the world have earned the Baby-Friendly designation.
In 2007, less than 3% of United States births occurred in approximately 60 Baby-Friendly designated facilities. In 2018, those numbers have risen to more than 24% of births in more than 500 Baby-Friendly designated facilities and continue to rise. Baby-Friendly hospitals and birthing centers can be found in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
The BFHI has enabled tremendous progress in lactation support. Since its inception over two decades ago, we have seen maternity wards transform from places historically infused with enormous influence from formula companies and default maternity care and infant feeding practices that undermined breastfeeding, to environments in which evidenced-based care is provided, education is free from commercial interests, and mothers are supported in reaching their infant feeding goals.
Baby-Friendly USA, Inc.
Baby-Friendly USA, Inc. (BFUSA) is the accrediting body and national authority for the BFHI in the United States. In this capacity, BFUSA is responsible for coordinating and conducting all activities necessary to confer the Baby-Friendly designation and to ensure the widespread adoption of the BFHI in the United States. We do this by:
1. Setting the standards/criteria for successfully implementing the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding in the US;
2. Assessing and accrediting birthing facilities that meet those standards and follow the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes; and
3. Generating widespread understanding of and enthusiasm for best practice infant feeding care.
BFUSA was incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in August 1997.